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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Should I bail?


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I'll try to make this brief. Here the story: my teacher had a big performance for a ballet she coreographed last year, I originally didn't participate because calculus class would have interfeered with rehearsals. This year they are doing it again and my teacher in december asked me to join (she gave me a contract that stated I would dance in about 4 or 5 parts, but I had to go to class five days a week and rehearsal 3 nights, plus attend her 3 week SI classes this january). Signing it meant a huge commitment, since I study architecture, i knew i would hace to take very little classes at school, but I did. I figured I'd only take DesignWorkshop, History and TechnicalDrawing. Surprisingly enough my parents were even supportive, because they knew how much this meant to me. It was pretty much a dream come true :wub:

Comes january, and as the SI rehearsals begin I over hear her say several times that she hasn't casted yet (me and a few newbies will be used to fill out the spaces of some people that left) but I had understood I had already been chosen for several roles, fom the contract.

Okay, fair is fair, I thought. If we must audition to get the roles, i will. But no! "WE" don't have to audition, I do. :dry: My danceclass mate that a first year begginer has already been promised a role, in the only pointe dance thats not the lead (even though shes been on pointe six months as opposed to 1,5 years). I tought it was because my teacher didn't think i'd be good enough, and she would, but im realising that may not be the reason at all. I went to the intensive, every single day, i know its not nice to compare but this girl missed 1 and a half weeks (of classes AND rehersals that is).

I learned the parts, even though I don't know on which I will dance (originally in all, buy clearly that wont be the case). Today in rehearsals my teacher told us there was once spot left in a part, a part i was promised and know and execute quite well -not bragging, just a fact-. She said that if we could learn it, great, if not, she would only put four dancers instead of 5. I had already learned it so I though "no sweat, she'll see I've got it down"... but she won't see. After the gifted begginer left the studio for a sec she told the rest of us: "she'd look wonderful, she's so long, her arms and legs are soo long, she'd look great". -All the others mocked about how they'd look like little thumbs next to her, cause they are all small and dont have the ballet body she has- I realised I would never get that fifth role, no matter how much better I did it. :rolleyes: After the girl came in she told my teacher that she just didn't know that part because had missed one of two rehearsals of it we had had, my teacher was mad, but we did it several times so that she'd get it, after my teacher asked her to do it on her own (she couldnt yet, no biggie.) ... :shrug:

Then, the last dance. Every girl in the performance is -supposedly- casted in it. They took over two months to learn it for last years performance, yet last thursday my teacher had a student teach it to us -in one hour-, so we learned half. Today she told us that we looked insecure (half fresh from thursday, the other half just following the others ), and that she would give us one weeks time to learn it perfectly, and if we had any doubts about the steps, we had to ask in our own time, not in the studio rehearsals time "if its not perfect, i cant put you on it, we cant loose any more time rehearsing this" -even though the performance isnt until May. Perfect in a week? They have been doing it almost a year and still screw up sometimes :wacko:

It looks as though, af all the parts I was originally promised, i'll only be "required" to do one -maybe two. My teacher hasn't been straight forward about this, every time I find out I wont be in a dance it has been because she says something and I notice. The other day in rehearsals for the pointes dance, she completely ignored I was there ("theres no point in me teaching it if such and such isn't here" -I was there... there was no point in teaching it to me? :D )

I never expected to loose parts because of my lack of a 100% perfect ballet body, because in the studio practically no one has one (no, im not fat at all, but my legs dont go for miles, my feet are not "herrera", and *shock* i'm short -(short like she is). Ive worked my a** off at classes (even doubled them up), ive struggled to keep my weight how she likes it, and I committed to her terms -even when this meant missing out on summer trips and sacrificing my career plans- which is more than I can say of any other girl in the studio. I even joined a second studio to be able to take a pointe class, because she stated in my contract that I needed to "improve pointework".

Yes, I screw up sometimes. Yes, I have a lot of improving to do. I'm willing to work as hard as I have to, :sweating: but I get the feeling it wouldn't make much of a difference if she won't even look my way. (Even in class, she only takes time to correct the gifted begginer, and I have to apply the corrections to myself). I feel its not a matter of how hard I work or even how much I improve, its a matter of me being, well, me.

Thats, in short, the story. Now the question: if I am, as I suspect, in a single dance I am expected to go to every rehearsal, and learn every role (even though i wont be casted). I feel betrayed, looked down upon. Should I suck it up and dance anyway or should i bail? Should I tell her I want to know what i will be casted as so that I can decide if its worth it? Should I tell her she should live up to her promises of casting me in the contract (after all, it is signed by both of us)? Should I tell her I bust my b*tt off for, well, nothing? :unsure: Im so losy right now.


Please, forgive the novel I've written, I really tried to sum it up. Thank you for reading. Any advice or words of wisdom will help me right now.

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OK, it sounds as if crunch time is just about here.


What are you going to do with your life? Are you going to dance, or are you going to be an architect?


If the latter, then just suck it up and get on with being the best dancer you can be. If the former, same answer. Casting is often inequitable, and if you think rudeness is bad in ballet, you should see what people say about architecture! No two ways about it, what was said in front of you was rude, but there's nothing at all that you can do about it.


Remind your teacher about that "contract" you signed. I bet it's not legally binding, but it certainly cuts both ways. If it demands certain things from you, it requires certain things from her, too! Do you have a "bail-out" position? A place where you can go if your expectations are not met?

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Well, about whether i want to dance or be an architect, thats a question I and many other have asked before. I've said, dance, and both. I've never ever answered that I wont dance -because I'd die if I didn't- but I try to be realistic and I know I can't dance "profesionally" as you would understand it (all I want is, as you say to be the best dancer I can be, and yes, to dance)

As you will imagine, from my choosen career path in archis, in the past year Ive heard it all from my teachers at college -thats not good enough, that is awful, whats that supposed to be? Work more, more, MORE-. Yeah, its rude, but I can take it. Why? Because what they want out of me is more effort, more work, better things. The problem with my ballet teacher rudness is that she doesn't want anything I can give her, she expects nothing from me -i'd love for her to correct me the way she does to this other girl, i wouldn't mind her being a little less harsh (as I do not respond best to shouting) but i'd rather feel that i have something to work towards.

When I said bail, i meant from the show, not classes. I'll never let her take my joy of classes and proper training away (Im looking into other schools, but not many offer daily training like i'm getting now, and I have to make up for lost time since im such a late starter.).

But I wonder whether it is worth to go through every rehearsal even though i'll be on stage 3 minutes at most, I would if i enjoyed rehearsal (in the very masoquist way we dancers enjoy things, that is :D ) but I get the feeling that I will continue to be ignored/shouted at 3 nights per week until May... fun!

Maybe you coudn't tell from my post, but im a chicken, scared to death of my teacher. So I might suck it up. Still, i wish she'd see that she's passing out on a hard-worker, comitted and responsible dancer. I usually have a lot of doubts about my dancing abilities, but these parts I can do, and well. I know I have a lot of trouble with some things, but I also know I have good stage presence, passion and willingness to thrive, but she doesn't know/care/realise.


Oh well, she'll just have to suck it up.


(I'll have to settle for enjoying seeing her fill with bitter rage when my mate miss yet another rehersal, and so close to opening-night :rolleyes: -oh well, at least she'll look looong onstage, maybe the audience won't notice she screwed up)

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Dear danzatriz!


I know you are a late starter like I was and there are many teachers outside who do only focus on their students with the perfect feet and bodies who started much younger than you and me.

You are a hard worker and for sure a gifted dancer since you already managed to catch up on the other girls who had earlier training than yourself. I have never seen you dancing but people with average arches and o.k. bodies who work hard for dancing could become decent professional dancers if their teachers would focus on them a little more.

But a teachers attention and power is limited too and therefore most teachers only focus on the students who in their opinion could for sure become professional dancers since their body types and the amount of training already are very promising.

They do neglect everybody else and do not care if somebody might be able to go pro who on first sight does not have ballet perfection. It simply is too high of a risk and too much work for them to assist such a person to become the best dancer he or she can be- they do put all their work and effort in the ones who are highly promising from the start.


I was a late starter like you (started ballet at the age of 14), I do have a nice ballet body with slim long arms and relatively long legs- but no amazing features, I like you have nice feet but not what they call "beautiful" feet, I have a nice amount of flexibility but have to work hard to maintain it- I am no natural- and I was advancing quickly being put in a class with girls who started to dance at the age of 4 ot 5, caught up nicely with them and was put on pointe quite quickly since I was a hard worker- I took extra classes to advance enough for pointe.

I wanted to go pro but you have such a hard stand as a latestarter and an even harder stand if you do meet the requirements for classical ballet but do not have any extraordinary features. I was neglected and thus could not go pro. I was so frustrated that at the age of 19 I completely stopped dancing for 2 years. (I started dancing again at the age of 21 now 8 months ago and its even more frustrating since I have to learn many things again from the beginning I used to master once- at least I managed to get back on pointe)


In a ballet pro world where it already seems to be standard for 11 year old students to do 20 consecutive russian fouettes on pointe and where kids are selected at an early age because of their outstanding features there seems to be no place for late starters with nice but not outstanding features. There is just too much competition out there and a company would pick somebody who is 17 before somebody who is 22 if they had the exact same technical level. It does not pay for many teachers to put their time, money and energy in latestarters.


It is a jungle out there and a bloody & hard business. Ballet is business.


I am an aspiring archeologist now and still do try to become the best dancer I can become even though there is no way for any career in dance.


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I want to thank you both firstly for taking the time to read my little novel. Also, thank you major for helping me see this from another perspective (not always an easy thing to do). And to you Shulie, a very sincere thanks for your thoughts, they reminded me of why it is that I dance -that I need to-, and have encouraged me to never stop working, reaching and trying.


Jacques D'Amboise said it better when he said: "So, I think I would say, enjoy the process of learning to dance. The process of our profession, and not it’s final achievement, is the heart and soul of dance. "





...I'll go do that now (thanks again, this site never fails to help)

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If only more were so focused on the actual goal! Thank YOU, Danzatriz! :blushing:

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  • 1 month later...


I'm sorry but I need to vent a little. It is just so hard. With just a little more than a month to go before the show, my teacher is crossing the line between harsh, mean and downright abusive.

The last weeks has been awful. First, the pointe part I was supposed to dance but then was casted as understudy for was abandoned by the dancer but... did I get cast? NO! SHe says she'll give me and a classmate a chance to audition for it and comes rehearsal day and classmate instantaniously gets the part. Huh? SHe wasn't even a real understudy for it, and has been on pointe 6 months less than me (and, I'm not bragging, I knew the part a lot better, which my teacher woudld've seen If she saw me... but she doesn't.)

Then she announces all dancers will be in the short final variation. I know it well, there is a double pirouette which I have trouble with usually, but I have been doing them. She is kind enough to aloud tell me that I have not been turning twicew, and that if I cannot do it, Im out of the variation (:jawdrop: why do I bother? she isn't even looking at me, she knows i have trouble with doubles so she just assumes im not doing it. Besides... what does it matter if im in the last row behind her two best and tallest dancers? Oh well. )

And now, the grand finale: the dream. She during rehearsals gathers us all to tells us a few announcments and then tells us about a nightmare she had: On opening night show is starting and a band of Disney dancers take the stage as opening act. She outraged yells "thats not my choreography, no!" "Girls, lets not dance, lets sabotage them". So her dancers are all as outraged and decide not to dance in sympathy, excpets for a few, she doesn't remember who excpets for one -guess who? :dry: - I say "It's MY first time dancing in the National Theatre, I will dance" and go into stage alone. (Can you imagine that. The irony, I, the only one that has actually gone to every rehearsal since January, is the one that betrays her in dreams -not to mention I HAVE danced in out Theatre... TWICE before.) Even in her dreams...



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*knock knock*


There's a "trick" to faking a nice double pirouette on stage if you happen to come down off pointe. OPEN YOUR WORKING KNEE as far side as you can, so the retire still looks good. And PUSH your shoulders down, because they're probably going up and hunching forward. Really, open that knee to the side and no one will notice that you came off pointe.


The great ballerina Alessandra Ferri has trouble with doubles--staying on pointe with those flexible feet, and she just holds this amazing turned out retire. No one cares or notices that the last 1/2 turn is not on pointe. Open the knee side. Try it.

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Oh, thanks lampwick I'll remember that when time comes. Unfourtounatly this is more of a contemporary piece so it's not en pointe (so really, im quite sure m am turning twice... ).

What I was sort of wondering is whether there is anything I can do to make classes and rehearsal a little more bearable for the time I have left (I pretty much think Im leaving after the show, for another place where I can get proper training as well as a techer that can help me with my self confidence issues rather than "un-helping" me with them).

I just come from 4 hours of class/rehearsal... and just like every other day I feel so bad. Not a session goes by that she doesn't make me feel like yelling/crying/leaving. WHat to do? How to get through until then? :D

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Unless you have a compelling reason for remaining there, I would leave. About the only reason for staying would be if there were literally no other choices between studying there or quitting entirely.

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Well, I'm afraid I did sign a contract, but as soon as I get my paycheck Im gonna invest in a big huge sign with flashing lights: "Free at last, Free at last!"

Still I won't say that the though of leaving now and breaching contract hasn't crossed my mind, specially after those really bad days. After all, it's not like she is keeping her pasrt, and she signed it too... :dry:

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Knock, knock…. I hope this is okay.


I just wanted to say keep your chin up. I know those bad days can really be bad. Just focus on the end coming nearer and that time is drawing nearer when you can just leave. Don't let one person ruin what's important to you. :)


Also double read your contract. If she's in breach of contract you may have an out.

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